CHRIS KIRWAN: Ability counts, not the amount of 'padding'

Toulon's Stefon Armitage is tackled by Exeter's Ben White during the Heineken Cup match at Sandy Park, Exeter. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday December 7, 2013. See PA story RUGBYU Exeter. Photo credit should read: Tim Ireland/PA W

Toulon's Stefon Armitage is tackled by Exeter's Ben White during the Heineken Cup match at Sandy Park, Exeter. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday December 7, 2013. See PA story RUGBYU Exeter. Photo credit should read: Tim Ireland/PA W

First published in Sport

NOT all players were as happy as Sir Clive Woodward when developments in technology enabled England to have an edge thanks to their tight-fitting jerseys in 2003.

And as someone who is also built for the more forgiving cut of a cotton supporters' shirt than a snug professional number, it's been marvellous to see some individuals who are 'the wrong shape' thriving recently.

There has always been a great deal of pride in rugby having a role for all sizes but that has come under threat in recent years, suffering because of attempts to depower the scrum and the emphasis on defensive solidity at the expense of attacking guile.

'If you're good enough, you're old enough' we are told when it comes to young prospects coming through. Well, if we are not to judge on age then we shouldn't allow our verdict to be clouded by shape.

You could make an argument for Toulon and England flanker Steffon Armitage being the best back row forward in Europe at the minute. He may be short and slightly spherical but that's the very reason WHY he is so good.

He is quick to get over the ball and then impossible to shift while he is rapid with ball in hand and hard to stop. Armitage's stats also show that he has no problem lasting the full 80 minutes.

The same goes for Cross Keys flanker Scott Matthews – the Wales Under-20s openside may not be built like Sam Warburton but that hasn't stopped him being one of the Premiership players of the season thanks to his destructive ability at the breakdown.

And then there is Duncan Bell, a 39-year-old who came out of retirement in February and has swiftly become a Newport Gwent Dragons favourite.

His bleep test results wouldn't make pretty reading but the tighthead has produced the goods on the pitch, helping to lock down the region's struggling scrum.

I spoke to a club coach recently who lamented some of his squad's obsession with weights, pondering whether they were more interested with how they will look on the beach rather than how they perform on the paddock.

And rugby would be very boring if there were 30 James Haskell clones slugging it out in the middle.

Comments (1)

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10:40am Thu 1 May 14

mep says...

Looking at skills on offer by many so called professionals they would be better off spending time on ball skills than pumping it in the gym.
Looking at skills on offer by many so called professionals they would be better off spending time on ball skills than pumping it in the gym. mep
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